Robinson


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Robinson is a patronymic name meaning "son of Robin."  It was said that the name Robin was originally made popular by Robin Goodfellow, whose mischievous tricks were later described in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, and perhaps even more so by Robin of Locksley, otherwise known as Robin Hood.

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England.  The first recorded reference was to a Richard Robynson in Yorkshire in 1324.  It has been mainly a Yorkshire and north of England name since that time.

William Robinson was a wealthy York merchant in Elizabethan times.  His descendants played a notable role in national politics, one as Lord Grantham as Foreign Secretary in 1782 and another as Viscount Goderich briefly as Prime Minister in 1827.

Other Yorkshire Robinsons included:
  • the Robinsons at Cleasby in north Yorkshire who went back to Elizabethan times.  Christopher Robinson of this family embarked for America in 1670.
  • a Robinson family from Brignall in north Yorkshire which had acquired the Rokeby estate in 1610.  They later held estates in Kent and Ireland.  Matthew Robinson was an eccentric 18th century member of this family.
  • and Richard Robinson who heard George Fox preach at Sedbergh in 1652 and was an early Quaker convert at his home at Countersett Hall on Wensleydale.
A Robinson family founded the Robinson brewery in Houghton-le-Spring, Durham in 1754.  The brewery continued in Robinson hands until the outbreak of war in 1914.

Robinson has also been a prominent name in Cumberland (now Cumbria).  Among these Robinsons have been:
  • William Robinson from Penrith who made his fortune in the 17th century in London as a merchant and returned to found Robinson's School in his home town.
  • another William Robinson, a Quaker, who was also a merchant in London.  He, however, set off in 1657 on the tiny vessel Woodhouse for America.  In Boston he met religious intolerance, was arrested, and was hanged.
  • Gerard Robinson who was a mariner from Whitehaven who in 1752 also left for America, in this case Virginia.
  • while Mary Robinson, who was a shepherdess in the Lake District in the early 1800's, was known as the Maid of Buttermere in Wordsworth's poem The Prelude.
Robinsons from Lancashire moved to the Isle of Man around the year 1800.  Two brothers, John and Henry, were responsible for the architectural facelift that Douglas on the Isle of Man received in the 1840's.

Ireland.
  The Robinson name is mainly to be found in Ulster.  It was thought that the Robinsons of Glenam in Antrim may have originally been Scottish Robertsons.

One Robinson family began in Dublin in the 1650ís with Bryan Robinson, thought to be from the Newby Hall Robinsons in Yorkshire.  The Rev. Christopher Robinson was rector of Granard in county Longford in the 18th century.  His offspring were: 

  • Admiral Hercules Robinson of the British navy
  • and his son Hercules, a British colonial administrator.
  • and Sir Bryan Robinson, a colonial judge in Newfoundland. 
Romney Robinson of this family was a longtime director of the Armagh Astronomical Observatory.

One Robinson family began in Dublin with Bryan Robinson in the 1650's.  They were physicians and doctors of medicine.  Later Robinsons of this family served as Victorian colonial Governors.  Romney Robinson was a longtime director of the Armagh Astronomical Observatory in the 19th century.

America.
  Christopher Robinson emigrated to Virginia from Cleasby in north Yorkshire in 1670.  Eight years later he built his home, later called Hewick, in Middlesex county along the Rappahannock river.  The Robinson family there became one of the leading families of Virginia.  Hewick still stands today.

The Rev. John Robinson was a Puritan pastor at Leyden who never made it to America.  He died in 1625. But two of his sons, Isaac and John, did get to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1630.  Other early New England arrivals were:
  • Increase Robinson who was in Dorchester by 1637 and later settled in Taunton
  • and Thomas Robinson who had reached Hartford, Connecticut by 1640 and later settled in Guilford.
Canada.  A later Christopher Robinson of the Virginia Robinsons, an Empire Loyalist, took his family to Canada in 1788:
  • his son Sir John was a leading figure in early Ontario politics
  • and his grandson John was Lieutenant Governor of Ontario in 1880.
One of Sir John's brothers, William, was a fur trader; another, Peter, a promoter of Irish emigration to Canada.  The Irish emigrants under this scheme which began in 1822 were in fact called Peter Robinson settlers.

South Africa.  Robert Robinson, a butcher from the Isle of Sheppey in Kent (although of earlier Yorkshire roots), was one of the 1820 settlers to South Africa.  He and his family made their home in the Cradock district of the Eastern Cape.  His children eventually numbered fourteen, of which the fourteenth and last, born in 1840, was Joseph.  Joseph Robinson was later to make a huge fortune in South African gold mining.

Select Robinson Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


Select Robinson Names

Jack Robinson is a fictional name in the usage: that something is done faster "than you can say Jack Robinson."  Its origins are uncertain.   
John Robinson was the pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers before they left for America and is considered as one of the founders of the Congregational Church.
Sir John Robinson was a leading political figure in Upper Canada in the early 1800's.
Joseph Robinson, the son of an 1820 settler, was a South African mining magnate.
Edward G. Robinson, born Emanuel Goldenburg from a Romanian Jewish family, was an acclaimed American movie actor in the 1930's and 1940's. 
Jackie Robinson was the black baseball player who broke the color bar in the national game.
Sugar Ray Robinson was an acclaimed American boxer.
Mary Robinson was the first woman President of Ireland.

Select Robinsons Today

  • 188,000 in the UK (most numerous in Tyne and Wear)
  • 174,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 71,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


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Adams Ellis Johnson O'Connor
Scott
Allen Evans Jones O'Sullivan Shaw
Anderson Fisher
Kelly Parker Simpson
Bailey Foster Kennedy Perry Smith
Baker Fox King Peterson Stevens
Barnes Fraser 
Lee Phillips Stewart
Bell Graham Lewis Powell Taylor
Bennett Gray Marshall Price Thomas
Brown Green Martin Reed
Thompson
Butler       
Griffiths Mason      
Reynolds Turner
Campbell Hall McDonald Richards
Walker
Carter Hamilton Miller  Richardson Walsh
Chapman Harris Mitchell Roberts Ward
Clark Harrison
Moore Robertson Watson
Collins Henderson Morgan Robinson White
Cook Hill Morris Rogers Williams
Cooper Howard Murphy Ross Wilson
Cox Hughes Murray Russell Wood
Davis Jackson Nelson Ryan Wright
Edwards James O'Brien 
Sanders
Young

For other surnames check the surnames2 page where there are to be found the history and genealogy for more than 800 surnames.

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